L I T T O R A L

Timothy Steele On The Pleasures Of Metrical Writing

01/09/2010  by Shayne Benowitz  1 Comment
 

Steele_SM.jpg

photo by Sharon McGauley


Timothy Steele
gave a talk yesterday on the pleasures of metrical writing. This was a topic
that many of the poets touched on throughout the day in their readings and
panel discussions. In fact, Rhina Espaillat quipped that she invented
meter as a schoolgirl when she first discovered rhythmical pattern (ta-tum ta-tum ta-tum ta-tum) in the
poetry her teacher read. In the same panel, Maxine Kumin was quick to correct Espaillat
that she beat her to it ten years prior when she invented meter. This pursuit
of shapeliness, form, movement, and music is at the very heart of writing
poetry.


For Steele, it
is essential that poets today not abandon meter completely. It is not enough
for young readers and writers to go back to old masters of verse such as Shakespeare
for this metrical pleasure. There must be a spark of emulation from today’s
living writers for the next generation of poets to use meter in a way that is
relevant and modern.


Meter is an
enchanting fusion of order and disorder, Steele explained. It is a sensuous
purchase on language. Meter is set. Irregularity is presented with words,
phrases, and syntax. It is not necessary to analyze rhythm, per se. One can let
it happen. Maxine Kumin also noted that form is used and complied with, but
also violated.


Yusef Komunyakaa
likened poetry to carpentry. In both pursuits there are a particular set of
tools at hand to create something that functions. Each is admired for its precision
in composition. He noted the visceral use of the hands in both pursuits as
messengers of the brain formed through accidental perfection. For Komunyakaa,
energy is the soul of poetry.


Steele asserted
that meter stops you and asks you to check your inspiration. It is an
instrument of discovery. It is meter that gives a poem its shape. Metrical
pleasure is what allows a poem to seep into your consciousness time and again,
recalling upon it in moments of joy or sorrow.

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One Response

  1. Timothy Steele, along with A.E. Stallings, are two of my favorite contemporary poets who know how to use rhyme in both a new, creative and natural way. Recently enjoyed reading Steele’s “The Color Wheel.”

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